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Staging chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

Men and women discussing chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

This page has information about the stages of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. There are sections about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

What is staging?

When your doctors have all your test results, they will know how much your leukaemia has developed. This is called staging. To decide the stage of CLL, doctors look at the number of abnormal white blood cells and whether any lymph nodes or the spleen are enlarged. The stage of your CLL helps your doctor to work out the treatment you will need.

The 3 stages of CLL

In the UK doctors use the Binet staging system. In the Binet system CLL has 3 stages – A, B and C. Your leukaemia is classed as

  • Stage A if you have fewer than 3 groups of enlarged lymph nodes and a high white blood cell count
  • Stage B if you have more than 3 groups of enlarged lymph nodes and a high white blood cell count
  • Stage C if you have enlarged lymph nodes or spleen, a high white blood count, and a low red blood cell or low platelet count

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating CLL section.

 

 

What staging means

When your doctors have all your  test results they will know the stage of your leukaemia. This means how far your leukaemia has developed.  For CLL staging, doctors look at the number of abnormal white blood cells and whether any lymph nodes or the spleen are enlarged. They also look at whether the production of normal blood cells has been affected.

Your doctor uses the stage of your chronic lymphocytic leukaemia to work out the treatment you will need. There are different ways of staging for different types of chronic leukaemia. If you are looking for information on the stages of chronic myeloid leukaemia, you are in the wrong section and should follow the link to get to the right page.

 

Staging chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

There are two different staging systems for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). These are the Binet staging system and the Rai system. In the UK and Europe doctors use the Binet staging system. The Rai system has 5 stages from 0 to IV. It is used more frequently in the USA, so we haven't discussed it here.

The Binet staging system for CLL has 3 stages

  • Stage A – fewer than 3 groups of enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) and a high white blood cell count
  • Stage B – more than 3 groups of enlarged lymph nodes and a high white blood cell count
  • Stage C enlarged lymph nodes or spleen, a high white blood cell count, and low red blood cell or platelet counts

In each stage, a group of lymph nodes means lymph nodes in one area of the body, for example, in the neck, underarms or groin. Each area counts as one group even if the nodes on both sides of the body are swollen. So, you may have swollen lymph nodes under both your arms and this would count as one group. The spleen also counts as one group of lymph nodes.

  • In stage A, it is likely the only symptom you may have is enlarged lymph nodes  
  • In stage B, you may feel tired and under the weather, or you may have no symptoms
  • In stage C, you have low levels of red blood cells (anaemia) and feel tired. You may also have signs of abnormal blood clotting, such as nosebleeds, unexplained bruising or unusually heavy periods. You may be prone to getting repeated infections. You might also lose weight and have night sweats.
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Updated: 10 March 2015